June 24, 2017

Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 6/24/2017

Finally getting back to some shoebox shopping.

Some soap, a couple free bars we brought back form a hotel on vacation.  And some of the Dollar Tree Dial, there wasn't a great printable coupon like past months, but there was a $1 off two insert coupon, so $0.17 a bar...still pretty good!

We got 4 more stuffed animals at the local thrift store for a quarter a piece.

Here are a couple fun 3D puzzles I found Mighty Dollar.  I'd recently cleaned out a drawer I keep my purse, etc in, and found some cash I wasn't sure if it was spending money or tithe, or...  So I decided to use it for shoeboxes, these are the first things I bought with it...so fun!

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $2.14 

Spent from gift cards earned or won online: $0

Added to stockpile:
  •  8 bars soap
  • 4 stuffed animals
  • 2 3D puzzles

Happy Packing!

May 27, 2017

Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 5/27/2017

Well, this is a slow time of year it feels for shoebox shopping, the spring holidays' clearances are over, and back-to-school deals haven't started yet.  We did manage to find some cute, like new, stuffed animals at a local thrift store:

Also, I recently reorganized my stationery/letter writing supplies, and trimmed down some of my supplies as I was running out of room.  Not so much getting rid of any paper entirely, but rather some of the sheets of some of the paper I had the most of and didn't think I'd use all up, that way I could fit more pads of paper in the drawer!  Plus some stickers and pens.

I'll probably use the paper to make stationery kits either like these I did in 2013, or just put some sheets together in a large envelope.

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $1.07 

Spent from gift cards earned or won online: $0

Added to stockpile:
  • 4 stuffed animals
  • 25 pens
  • Lots of stickers and cute paper 
 Happy Packing!

May 26, 2017

Shop thru Swagbucks this Memorial Day Weekend for Larger Cash Back [Thru 5/29/2017]

Most Memorial Day sales are about saving you money. With Swagbucks, you'll earn money too! They're offering increased cash back (in the form of SB points) at several of your favorite merchants.  For instance, Walmart is up to 4% back!!  And I know many of you have things for shoeboxes you like to get for shoeboxes!   Some of them may not go on sale, but getting extra cash back is almost like a sale!  

If you haven't heard of Swagbucks, when you shop there you get cash back in the form of SB points for every dollar you spend. Then you redeem those points for gift cards to places like Amazon, PayPal, Starbucks, Walmart, and more! Sign up here to get started 

Plus, if you've signed up through my links at some point this month (or do it now), you'll get a $2 (200 SB) bonus added to your account when you spend $25 or more through Swagbucks Shop before the first of June!

You can earn SB in all sorts of ways, including discovering deals and trying new products/services, watching videos, taking surveys, or just searching the web!  

Get your shopping done early AND get points for it to use for cash back or gift cards! Offers last through Monday, May 29th, 2017.

Check out more ways to earn at Swagbucks by clicking this link:  How to Earn Free Gift Cards and Cash at Swagbucks Series.

Disclosure:  Links to Swagbucks in this post are my referral links.  Thank you for using my links.  I also earned SB for sharing this promotion.Happy Packing!

May 23, 2017

MD Supplies Reviews

If you pack shoeboxes in any number of shoeboxes, often buying things in bulk can be a way to make it easier and stretch funds.  For hygiene supplies one good option I've found is to order from MDSupplies & Service's special Shoebox Shoppers order form.     MDSupplies & Services has helpfully made us who pack for shoeboxes a special  order form of just items that can go in shoeboxes...plus it has FREE SHIPPING!!! MD Supplies sells hygiene and other supplies in large lots of varying sizes, so for someone who only packs a few boxes this may not be as great, but you may be able to go in with friends, or the deals are so good, if you can scrape together a little extra money and storage space, it may be worth getting a few years ahead. They helpfully arranged for me to sample some of items from the Shoebox Shoppers order form, and I wrote review posts of the items I tried, here's the links to the various reviews:

Hope this helps someone!

May 20, 2017

Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 5/20/2017

This is actually the results of a few weeks of collecting, but with my grandmother's death and vacation, I didn't get them posted.

My sister got two of these canvas tote bags our children's pastor had gotten at a conference and was getting rid of...they roll up great to fit in shoeboxes.

Picked up some clearance at CVS...had some ECBs I'd gotten from various deals (for more info on CVS deals check out my other blog SimplyCVS), but with everything going on they were about to expire, so I used some on 50% clearance, and some later on 90% off, so after the ECBs it was just a few cents.

A box of Cheerios we had had this little freebie in it...great little bonus item.

Found some fun stuff at Mighty Dollar.  I had been wanting tweezers for some of my boxes, thought theses were a decent price & should try them.  Also got the chalk board to try (haven't got a chance yet) as I know in some countries a chalk board might be better than paper.  The whistles were fun additions for my dad's 10-14 boy boxes...we had some plastic cones that cost less, but thought these would be fun.  The kite will be a little tricky to fit in, but it's normally a $5-$10 kite for a $1.

I got all theses new/like new items at a thrift store for a quarter each, except the pins that were $1, I plan to split them up into sewing kits for the older girls boxes at the church packing parties.

The fabric Frisbees fold up into these cute little packets!

Finally,  when we went on vacation, we took our own soap, so we could save the bars for OCC...ended up being these super cute leaf shaped ones!!  Since they're small, I'll probably put them in as bonus bars, or with another small bar.

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $12.29 

Spent from gift cards earned or won online: $0

Added to stockpile:
  •  2 tote bags
  • 4 fun headbands
  • 1 jump-rope
  • 2 art kits
  • 1 decorative eraser
  • 1 little bonus item
  • 1 small kite
  • 4 metal whistles
  • 1 slate and chalk kit
  • 2 tweezers
  • 7 stuffed animals
  • 5 Frisbees
  • 8 wooden peg games
  • 3 balls
  • 1000 pins
  • 2 bars soap 
Happy Packing!

May 15, 2017

A missionary in Zambia shares stories and advice from OCC shoebox distributions

On this blog I mostly write about packing, shopping, crafting, etc. for shoeboxes, but I thought it'd be encouraging to share some distribution stories, plus I love to get more ideas and feedback on things to include from first hand reports.  Since I've never been on a distribution, I'm "interviewing" people who have!  Today's report is from Jennifer Carpenter of The Carpenter's Mission:

It is really quite amazing how OCC played a key part in God leading us to leave the US and serve overseas in Zambia!

A number of years ago, we were experiencing a very financially challenging time in which my husband had been laid off from his job. It was October and it was time to do shopping for our shoeboxes. We had two young children at the time. I gave it a lot of thought because we really didn’t have enough funds but I wanted to teach my children to give, even when it is not easy. So, we filled our boxes, added a card with a picture of our family and sent them on their way. 

Well, nearly 8 months later, we went to the mailbox and we received a thank you letter from a young boy in Zambia, Africa that had received one of our boxes. God used that to give us a heart for Zambia. He called us to go to Zambia and serve as missionaries! 

So, as you may imagine, it is like a dream come true to now be on this side, handing out boxes to the children on the ground. It is like God has brought it full circle and we have been so blessed to be on both sides of the OCC program and it has had a tremendous, life changing impact on our lives and our family!

If you would like to know more about The Carpenter's Mission, check out:

>>How do you get shoeboxes?
There is a local OCC group run by Zambian’s here that covers the area we serve in. We partner with them through donations to help with cost of in country expenses and we request the opportunity to be a partner ministry in the region.

>>Did you do any special preparation before the distribution?
Yes, we prepare ahead of time a number of ways. First, we identify an area within our ministry that would benefit from help and encouragement of shoeboxes. We make estimates on the number of boxes we would need to fulfill the need in that location. We submit a request for the number of shoeboxes and they evaluate the need overall and let us know how many we can receive. We are required to send representative of our ministry and teachers to a yearly training to be sure everyone understands the stated goals and mission. Once we know a location will be able to receive boxes we also do additional teacher training on the discipleship materials provided.

>>How many times have you distributed shoeboxes?
This is just our second year doing the shoebox distribution.

>>When & where did you distribute shoeboxes (location, what the area/poverty is like, etc.?
The areas that we chose for our ministry locations are mostly new church plants in very rural village locations. Most of these locations do not even have power or running water. Most in the areas we serve are living in extreme poverty.

>>About how many kids were at the distribution(s) you attended?
Our distributions have ranged from about 20 children to the largest being about 65. Again, we target new churches in our ministry that need discipleship and want to reach more people in their community with the Gospel.

>>Please share a little about the distributions:
Distributions are fun and exciting but they take a lot of planning and coordination. We do not tell the children that the distribution will be occurring ahead of the date. We make it a fun surprise. We focus on the children and sharing with them the Gospel story in a fun and engaging way. We then let them know that we have a special gift for them to remind them of the free gift of salvation they were offered. We let them know that people all over the world love Jesus and care about them. We call out their names from a list that is created by the local leaders. We give them their gifts and have them gather together to open them at one time. It is so neat to look around and see each child try to investigate what they have received and how to use it. It is so sweet when you see a big grin come across their faces and the light footsteps as they carry their gift home with them.

>>What's your favorite memory?
The best memory for us is when we went to the graduation of one of our new churches and there were almost double the number of children that attended and completed the discipleship than even received boxes! We had provided them with tools needed to reach the children in their community with the truth!

>>What item(s) did you notice the kids really enjoying and/or needing? Maybe something you would consider adding or emphasizing more if you packed boxes the future?
The stuffed animals/dolls seem to really connect with the children. Most have very few toys of any kind. For the older children, math sets and solar calculators would be a big help as they are required to have them to begin grade 8. Practical things are helpful like toothbrushes, combs, washcloths, soap.

>>Is there anything you personally wouldn't pack as much in boxes in the future based on what you saw?
I would worry less about gender specific items as they are not nearly as concerned about that type of thing as we may be.

>>Did you have any follow-up with the kids?
Yes, we do get to see the children when we visit these churches. It is fun to see them enjoying things they have received. We attend their graduation when they complete the discipleship books.

>>Have you seen any long-term impact from the shoeboxes? (churches planted, kids able to go to school because they got supplies, families helped, etc)
We have seen our new church plants growing and we attribute some of that growth to programs like OCC. It also gives the teachers the tools to teach the children in a way that connects with their age group that is often overlooked in the areas we serve. Children are often just taught with adults and have little stories/pictures/games to make it fun to learn and the OCC materials provide that.
Graduation Day at Kabanana!!! ...  The have completed their books and we also awarded the Sunday School leader with a Story Cloth to continue teaching through the Bible!!!!!! What a wonderful day!

>>Is there anything else you'd like to share with shoebox packers?
Remember that the shoebox really expresses God’s love to the whole family and not just the one child who receives it. Anytime you show love for another’s child it touches their heart. I have seen mothers that were very moved by the gifts for their children and fathers that have shown me things their child received months later when we visited their homes. These gifts show love to the whole family and relieve a small burden from the parents that would love to give more to their children but cannot. A friend told me today that they have toys in their home that they received a number of years ago, before we were even here, and she can tell the children that was a blessing that came from God.

REMINDER: this advice is just based on one person's opinion based on their personal experience in one country.  This is not official from Operation Christmas Child whose guidelines are the only thing incumbent on us to follow and are based on thousands of distributions in dozens of countries over many years and based on feedback from local partners as well as customs regulations.  These regulations are different for different sending countries, so be sure to check out the rules for your own country/region (OCC USAOCC CanadaOCC UKOCC AUOCC Japan, etc.).
Disclosure: Links on Simply Shoe Boxes may be affiliate partners or referrals.